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Interviews

Nobu Stowe: Beyond Free

By Published: August 25, 2010
AAJ: After the two albums on Konnex, you were signed by Soul Note. Your first effort on this famed Italian label is chamber-esque Hommage an Klaus Kinski (2007). This work is credited to the "NS Stowe—Lee Pembleton Project." What's the story behind this project and the album?

From left: Nobu Stowe, Perry Robinson, Andrea Centazzo, Badal Roy

NS: While in Chicago, I met Lee Pembleton. Lee is a sound sculptor, artist coming from the tradition of noise music as well as musique concrète. Lee participated in my fusion projects before relocating to California. But we kept in touch, and always wanted to do something together. After the completion of Brooklyn Moments and New York Moments, I was eager to explore more of an introverted approach to fully improvised music. My inspirations for this came from the chamber-free works by Jimmy Giuffre
Jimmy Giuffre
Jimmy Giuffre
1921 - 2008
clarinet
, Lee Konitz
Lee Konitz
Lee Konitz
b.1927
sax, alto
, Paul Bley. I pictured it would be nice to carry total improvisation in the chamber-free mode on the sonic canvas provided by Lee.

So with this idea, Lee and I decided to have a recording session. I really wanted Perry Robinson
Perry Robinson
Perry Robinson
b.1938
clarinet
for this project, because he is directly coming out of the chamber-free tradition set motion by Giuffre et al. Fortunately for me, Perry kindly accepted my proposal. Other members participating in this recording were Blaise Siwula, John McLellan and Ross Bonadonna. Blaise is primarily known for his passionate blowouts, but is adept at subtle playing as well. John, who had collaborated frequently with Blaise, Mat Maneri
Mat Maneri
Mat Maneri
b.1969
viola
, and others, is a masterful drummer of space and silence. I personally regard Ross as the best kept secret of the fertile avant scene of New York. I met Ross when I recorded at his Wombat Studio in Brooklyn. Ross is not only a good engineer, but is also equally skilled on guitar and various reed instruments, most notably on bass clarinet and alto saxophone. He really understands the foundations of the music, accustomed to a wide range of musical genres, and can think out of the box and be free and spontaneous at the same time.

AAJ: Why a dedication to German actor Klaus Kinski?

NS: The title was taken from the track, "Hommage an Klaus Kinski," that was fully improvised by Lee, Ross and myself. But this was only named so after the recording session, because this particular improvisation just happened to be strongly reminiscent of a scene from Fitzcarraldo, the 1982 film masterpiece featuring Kinski, directed by Werner Herzog, and the soundtrack by Florian Fricke and his group Popol Vuh. So we originally had no intention to come up with a song or an album dedicated to Kinski. But I have been a great fan of the films by Herzog and Kinski as well as the freshly meditative music by Popol Vuh since my high school days.

AAJ: You and Perry Robinson participated in Andrea Centazzo
Andrea Centazzo
Andrea Centazzo

percussion
's album The Soul in The Mist, released on ICTUS in 2007. How did this musical meeting happen?

NS: I was first exposed to the music of Andrea Centazzo through his duo album with the Swiss master Pierre Favre
Pierre Favre
Pierre Favre
b.1937
drums
, probably the most melodic percussion player ever. Then, I listened to Andrea's duo album Clangs (RDC, 2000) with Steve Lacy
Steve Lacy
Steve Lacy
1934 - 2004
sax, soprano
. When I came across the homepage of the revived Ictus Records—a label established and operated by Andrea himself, I decided to email Andrea. This was after the recording of Hommage an Klaus Kinski. Andrea liked what I did with Perry and suggested forming a trio with him. We had a short East Coast tour, which was recorded, produced and released by Andrea. My piano playing is rather reserved on this album, but I believe this is an ideal album to appreciate the criminally underappreciated talent of Perry, and also the compositional skill of Andrea who is primarily known for his fully improvised music with Derek Bailey, John Zorn
John Zorn
John Zorn
b.1953
sax, alto
, and Evan Parker et al.

AAJ: You released An die Musik Soul Note, 2008), a set of duo and trio improvisations with Alan Munshower on drums and Badal Roy on tabla. The stylistic methodology differs significantly from other releases of yours. The fully improvised music contains tuneful melodies with a strong sense of tonality. It is perhaps your most direct answer to Keith Jarrett's solo piano improvisations, but also suggests world music influences, somewhat reminiscent of the music of the group Oregon Jazz Band and Pat Metheny
Pat Metheny
Pat Metheny
b.1954
guitar
. What events led to the fruition of this album?

NS: Of my published works, I believe this album represents my song-oriented approach to fully improvised music at the purest. Back in 2006, I was extremely happy to receive an email from the legendary producer Giovanni Bonandrini. Earlier, I had sent him several recordings of mine, including a total improvisation duo with Alan recorded in January 2005 in Washington DC. Giovanni kindly wrote that he was very impressed by this performance and would like to release it on Soul Note. Unfortunately, the sound quality was not adequate for an official release. So Giovanni asked me to re-record the material. Of course, being fully improvised music, it was not possible to re-record the DC performance, but I scheduled two nights of live recording sessions at An die Musik in Baltimore. For one session, Alan and I were joined by tabla master Badal Roy
Badal Roy
Badal Roy

tablas
. I had been familiar with Badal's playing through his seminal works with Miles Davis, John McLaughlin
John McLaughlin
John McLaughlin
b.1942
guitar
, and also Perry Robinson. I thought Badal's deep tabla groove would be a nice complement to Alan's sensitive touch on drums. I was thrilled when Badal accepted the proposal. The recording session was the first ever time, Alan and I played with Badal. But we quickly managed to achieve sympathetic interplay.


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